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A Modern Day Peerless: A Tale Two Stories Chicago

by Kris L. Williams

It’s pretty much a given that a person attending a first year contracts class in law school will study the 1864 case about two ships both named Peerless, both carrying the same type of cargo (cotton), both departing from Bombay, India, and both slated to arrive in Liverpool, England. The only real difference between the two shipments was their different departure dates of October and December. The case illustrates the vitally important “meeting of the minds” in order to bind parties to an agreement.

When two or more parties are in accord with the terms of an agreement, the law will recognize a legal contract and use its powers to ensure enforcement; however, in the case where an essential term has two different meanings and both are reasonable in light of all the circumstances, the parties better have ascribed the same meaning to the term, otherwise there was never a “meeting of the minds” and no enforceable contract was created.

In the case of Peerless case, one party thought he was buying the shipment of cotton on the October Peerless, but the cargo for him was sent on the December Peerless. The buyer refused delivery so the seller sued for breach. If only one of the parties had inquired about the delivery date, no suit would have ensued and we would have never heard about the two ships Peerless.

Recently I was reminded of this case when a friend’s dad discussed what he had done over the weekend. He and his wife were invited by their friends to attend Chicago, playing at the Hollywood bowl. Thinking that he was in for a night of partying like it was the 1970s and ‘80s again, he got settled into his seat. The curtain opened and the narrator came out, welcoming the audience to enjoy murder, mystery, comedy, and song during the time of the roaring 1920s. He promptly fell asleep for the duration of the show, but listened to “Glory of Love” on repeat all the way home.

Fortunately for him and his wife they were guests and not expected to reimburse their host, but had they been requested to do so, they’d have strong legs to stand to defend a breach-of-contract suit.

At Heiting & Irwin we know the law and what is needed to successfully pursue or defend claims. We are a firm that will fight for your honor (and your rights). Give us a call to have your matter reviewed by an attorney today.

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